To people who have never experienced drugs, grown up in a culture that demonizes them all indiscriminately, have a hard time wrapping their head around what they are/do exactly but are curious about them, I recommend this article by Sam Harris, a great neuroscientist
For a slightly more in depth essay, Aldous Huxley's "Doors of Perception"  is a great book, albeit slightly dated.
There are also some extremely interesting synergies between the origins of the computer industry and the psychedelics/California counter culture era. John Markoff's "What the Dormouse Said"  is a fantastic read, although it requires knowing about computer history a little bit already. I learned from it that there was scientific research on LSD conducted in Menlo Park, a few blocks away from where I used to live.
There's also a great essay by Timothy Leary about parallels between psychedelics as tools for expanding the human mind and the computer as a tool to enhance the human brain in Brenda Laurel's book "Art of Human Computer Interaction Design". 
There's a great essay by Carl Sagan about his experiences using marijuana creatively/intellectually .
I had never tried any drugs before moving to California in my 20s, and had grown up in a fairly standard European culture of all drugs = the devil. Some changes occurred, and it turns out there's a really fascinating history and philosophy in there (especially w/ regards to parallels with computer history, as described in the aforementioned book).
Personally I'm not a huge fan of the "wonder drug that will cure all ills and open your EYES man" theories that abound around psychedelics. They can certainly induce a sense of the profound but I'm not sure they actually produce profundity.
That said, long term changes to thought patterns and moods are certainly evident and I think research in this area could be very useful.
I also think it's a person's own business what they take, that the dangers of "drugs" are vastly and deliberately overstated, and that the drug war is an inhuman waste of lives, time and money. That probably makes me some sort of crazy hippy radical...
What's the difference?
But, after coming down, does this experience have any grounding in reality? Did it 'actually produce profundity' or was it a hallucination, pure and simple?
Hope that helps capture the difference.
For example, although I had seen the Xena: Warrior Princess musical episode "The Bitter Suite" before numerous times it wasn't until under the influence was I able to emotionally and mentally understand the allegory of the episode.
Basically, the symbolism of Gabrielle having a "demon" child forced into her against her will, who Xena considered a monster and wanted to kill whilst Gabrielle blamed herself for it's inception is a very clear metaphor of a rape. It took a strong emotional attachment to the journey of the main characters to truly appreciate as well as understand the message encoded in the symbolism. It may not be "profound" as the meaning of everything but realizing that with my own devices was at least enlightening.
In my very limited experience mind altering drugs seem to turn off/lessen the assumptions one makes, to step outside the critical path and analyze information more in-depth.
[Edit] Correcting auto-correct
I understand how you're feeling about it. It was exactly like my first experience as well. 9 years later, I'm addicted. (Yes this is possible)
It's not apparent from the outside. Almost no one know that I smoke. I did lose my girl friend, who was pretty much the one for me. All warning signs were there, but I chose to ignore those. I'm able to hold on to an good programming job (ios/android programming) with a good salary, although I believe I am actually producing half my capacity, and having a lot more stress than needed. During the day, I can't wait to get home to smoke a little. Then a little more. Nights are pretty much a blur this way.
The effects you're experiencing fade away so slowly that it's hard to know when you're no longer actually enjoying the "high." And that's really dangerous, because you don't know that you might be getting addicted (everyone tells "marijuana is not addictive") so you smoke a bit more. Eventually it does end up consume you.
Some percentage of marijuana smokers do get addicted. I personally have quit smoking, never got addicted to drinking or anything else, and have never done any other drug. It almost feels impossible to stop weed though. I urge you to look it up online, there are forums where people talk about this.
So I suggest great precaution. See when you want to do it more, and more often. And when you start doing it instead of what you need to do. There's when danger is first realized, but often overlooked.
Maybe you're one of the lucky majority who will not get addicted -- in which case I envy you.
I hope the reason that this was prescribed to you is not very serious and you get well soon.
And then came the depression and all fun was gone, no matter how many drugs I would take in. Those days I would not even wish upon my worst enemies. They destroy you, and it takes a long time to get all pieces back together properly. Even now, again 7 years later, hooray for the magic number, I still have to cope with leftovers from back then.
So here's my suggestion to you: don't wait until the depression really kicks in, chances are high it will, but just quit asap. I know for a fact you won't believe me, neither did I, but it is actually way easier than you think it is (my experience + plus those of two friends). I just quit from one day to the other, never looked back, and the withdrawal effects were pretty mild - even pleasant. Here are some effects of quitting, as you will notice most are extremely postive.
- for a month or so I had a huge urge to be 'active' because I felt like I had tons of energy that had nowhere to go. Running biking, whatever. Sometimes I would just go out at night and climb trees. For fun. Didn't do that since I was a child.
- you start to remember things. Randomly. From your childhood, from a couple of years earlier, ... It's weird. I never knew where and why my brain kept those but suddenly they would just pop up.
- at the same time, the depression started to fade, also gone where the endless thought-circles about life in all it's aspects, and my position in it. I still have those thoughts, but they don't go in endless circles anymore, instead now I come to conclusions
- as a result of that, social interaction came back (not back to normal as it never was before, but back to acceptable levels anyway)
- as a result of that, I found a girlfriend, soon to be wife and likely mother of children
- one downside: from time to time there's still an extremely strong urge to get completely wasted. Now I always had this, the typical craving and search for a high, but after quitting with weed it only became stronger. Like my mind is still addicted to being altered. Lots of sports helps to suppress it, but I admit sometimes I still go wild, mainly on alcohol and preferrably when I'm my own. Seems like a small price to pay though.
Your comment and the comment you replied to have very quickly established an argument with two sides, a duality. This is a tired old debate that is based on a confused pseudo-theory about human nature.
I'll just address the side you have chosen. You're postulating that the person who has issues with the drug probably has issues in general. The logic seems to be that since the drug has no will of its own, it is a kind of neutral object that should not be blamed. Fine; that's reasonable enough.
But is there also an aspect of defensiveness? That is, this herb has a positive valence for you, and so any negativity associated with it must be shifted towards some essential source -- so that the neutrality of the drug is maintained.
Personally I think it's both amusing and sad that it's so difficult to have a rational, clear-headed conversation about these things. Part of that is probably because the issue of criminality looms in the background, making everything into a heavily value-loaded "statement," causing stigma and demonization and, on the flip side, valorization and blame-shifting.
It's the same thing but much worse with stronger psychedelics. The whole discussion becomes "are they good or evil?" And by extension, "are people who use it good or evil?" It's simply stupid, unenlightened, regressive.
Because the real discussion is "What should we do given that these molecules do exist?" How should we think about them? When are they useful and when do they cause harm? How do these particular kinds of harm work? How can we provide help and guidance to people who -- for whatever reason -- experience these molecules as a negative, seductive, destructive presence in their lives? How can we harness whatever good potential they have? Etc etc etc.
We're treating these molecules as if they were capricious Olympic gods, but they're just substances that happen to affect the human mind in different ways.
People who use drugs, needs them. If they can come to terms of not blaming drugs and continue using them, its fine.
One can be drunk all his life and its good, because sober, he lost faith in humanity.
One might understand that there is no point in anything and he can't live on unless he is doped up with something, either it be food, alcohol, cocaine, TV shows or workout. Whatever negativity you experience while on drugs can be great revelation to yourself and about yourself. Good potential is not only happy thoughts and work performance, clearer mind, but also the depths of hell you have crawled out(or not). And also what your actions changed in other people around. It is so complicated and fascinating.
What should we do? What is "Harm"? Injury, pain, depression, death? What is wrong in experiencing that? Or Fear?
Could it be that drug war is beneficial to respecting and accepting drugs?
Can only really corrupt politician wake up the masses? And how many times it will repeat and repeat and repeat. When will one needs to change his way of life and thinking and throw away previous behavior completely.
And having conversation online by text is so uncomfortable for me, sorry, I can't write and hold thought long.
I still suggest reading more about this, because it is not as well known as it needs to be. I actually found about http://www.reddit.com/r/leaves on this thread. I'd recommend you to check it out if you have a little time.
I want to call out that I'm not against legalization, or people who can do it without any issues. I just want to point out that there are some of us who are actually having a lot of problems with it, and some care needs to be taken. This substance does require some respect and I feel totally powerless in handling it.
Are those anything like medical leeches?
one of the things LSD illustrates with intensity is that perception is reality. it blurs the line between between what is "profound" and "real" and "fake" and reassures you the line never existed in the first place. and really, it may not.
what is profound is not necessarily only what you conclude, but the experience itself. watching your mind and conscious contemplate and imagine in ways you literally couldn't have even contemplated or imagined.
DMT is nearly identical to serotonin and tryptophan, and similar to psilocybin and mesclaine. Whatever it does to the brain, it's not a typical effect of any other drug I'm aware of.
seriously scared me from any desire to try.
After 20 minutes you feel 90% normal. It's like having the most intense profound dream. You can have a fleeting sensation of wanting to return to the experience. But it is not addictive in my opinion.
Joe Rogan's given some eloquent descriptions of it. When he says it's like meeting God in a universe full of love, he's being literal. It feels natural. There's a sensation of an intelligence understanding force communicating with you. Making sense of it can be extremely challenging. I'd caution against doing it if you have any hesitation.
If you care to respond, were you aware of your surroundings/your body/your existence, or did everything not matter in the moment?
Is there any sense of time progression? Do you remember everything right after?
Can you hear any sounds from the environment you are in? (tv, radio etc)
It seems like this is something you would want to try only after being at a point in life where you are stable, mentally (emotionally), and physically (health).
Such a fascinating topic, thanks for sharing your knowledge.
This cheese is my brother, we'd all be at peace if everyone wore purple, god is a piece of bread with butter on both sides. When on acid these sorts of things can feel (subjectively) like the most awesome discovery, like the opening up of a whole new world of knowledge. Examined objectively afterwards they don't make a lot of sense, but subjectively, at the time, they felt extremely important.
That's all I meant.
A fact about yourself - realising that you love someone.
A fact about the world - realising that all matter is energy condensed.
At least taking the "open your EYES man" statement at face value. But a profound experience on hallucinogenics is realising that ... ? What's the mechanism even meant to be to entangle the experience to the reality it supposedly represents?
Of course, there is the other meaning of the word; great, intense. Profoundly in love, profound hatred - and so on. Certainly drugs can induce that sort of profundity.
That's probably not what I'd be thinking while tripping, more likely, at last, this is it, GOD!
and then Eden-like fading away into memory.
I wonder how much I'm actually destroying my health by smoking weed every day, drinking coffee, and having some alcohol at least in a minor capacity.
I feel as if the emotional/mental pain I suffered by not having any outlet greatly outweighs the physical damage I'm doing to myself.
Now that I smoke/drink while working most of the time (self unemployed), I find that I am much more productive because I'm enjoying myself the entire time. Tunes, a drink, a smoke, and code.
Never seen talk on HN about drugs really. What's your routine like with HN? What are your experiences?
Weed probably is great when things are actually in order in your life, but you may be losing contact with reality precisely because it makes it possible to enjoy yourself the entire time. I think you have to be very mindful of that.
It's a painful processes, turning to face life directly, but I feel like I'm managing to do so day by day. Part of this processes involves speaking to a psychiatrist and starting an SNRI prescription.
I do plan to smoke weed again, cautiously, once things are "in order".
It's funny - when I used to smoke weed, I always felt like I needed to clear my daily todo list before hand. I would take out the trash I should have taken out, put clothes in the laundry, maybe respond to some lingering emails. It was quite productive.
Now I'm recapitulating that pattern at a higher level in life. At least, I hope that's what's happening...
As a non-smoker, it's one of my fears that if this happens again, I won't be able to convince one of my smoking friends that this is happening to them. Mental dependence seems insidious in that way. Any pointers? Experiences to share?
reddit.com/r/leaves is a great resource for quitting. if you read the posts there, you'll see that same story over and over and over.
One problem with vaporizers is that there isn't a great word to use to describe the action of using one. "Vap" sounds lame or maybe even show-offy, so I just use the word "smoke". ;)
Alcohol is what I truly appreciate though. The reason I smoke is so that when I want to unwind and tune out, I have options other than alcohol every time. Heavy long term alcohol use can be very bad for you, but by giving myself other healthier options I've managed to get my drinking back to 4-8 times a month (always Wednesdays, sometimes Fridays). Alcohol is what I love/fear, weed is what I entertain myself with between flings with booze.
I am starting to suspect that caffeine is a net-negative force in my life, as it constantly jostles my sleep schedule.
The verb "vape" is what is commonly used with the people I know. It's not show-offy if vaporizing is commonplace. This is more recent, and I just said "use a vaporizer" in the past if I wanted to be specific.
Personally, I own both a non-portable vaporizer that can fill bags (Herbelaire) and a portable vaporizer (Pax). Both are used frequently and are easy to share with friends. I still smoke, but that is only maybe 10% of the time. I've been vaping for the last 17 years, starting with a home-made vaporizer made using a soldering iron.
As for alcohol: I enjoy it, but I rarely have the desire to drink it for it's intoxicating effects lately. I really enjoy the taste of beer (and wine is good too), but it's becoming rare that I actually want to drink one. What changed is that I started getting back in shape and exercising frequently (well, moderately). Due to being a new parent, I often get my exercise around 9pm-10pm as that is the only time that works for me. That means many nights, alcohol is just not an option. Also, I have been fairly consistent in eliminating unhealthy foods (I can count the number of times I have a sugary dessert in a month on one hand), and I've started to see beer as unnecessary calories. The fact that I lost enough weight to stop snoring is just affirmation that I should stick with this. I'll save drinking beer for social situations, rather than something I have with dinner.
I'm not a teetotaler by any means. I drink a couple of glasses of something pretty much every other day. But that's about the limit of what a healthy, adult male should be drinking. Any more than that, especially over the long run, and you're setting loose a lot of chickens that will come home to roost when you're older.
I don't smoke weed with nearly the frequency I did when I was young. That's got less to do with my beliefs about its health effects, and more to do with being too busy. But every now and then, sure. Sharing a couple of beers and a joint is a fantastic social experience.
On a related note: SF is one of the most weed-friendly towns I've ever lived in, and there is virtually no stigma whatsoever here. One time I saw a dude light up right outside the freaking airport baggage claim, in broad daylight, and nobody around him seemed to care.
Weak 10% ABV wine would be 20 units. Normal 12.5% ABV would be 25 units. Strong 15% ABV wine would be 30 units.
UK advice is no more than 3 to 4 units per day for men, with a couple of days free of alcohol and no "saving up" of units for a binge. (The old advice was 21 units per week for men.)
Drinking above that limit long term has some health consequences
Problem drinking has several definitions, but NICE recommend assisted withdrawal at 30 units per day. (15 to 20 per day if there are co morbid severe mental health problems).
I don't care if people use cannabis (and I am strongly in favour of legalisation) but I fucking hate the refusal of many cannabis users to even contemplate any negative effects of cannabis.
Don't get me wrong; I don't refuse to contemplate the negative effects of cannabis, of which quite a few have been hypothesized, some observed. When I said "alcohol is probably much worse than weed," I didn't say "weed is a free lunch." Just want to make sure I'm clear on that.
There are cannabinoid receptors in the brain (and other organs). Our current understanding of them is far from complete, and we know that smoking weed habitually will reregulate them, and not necessarily for the better. I'm not one of those hippy-dippy types who thinks there are no ramifications involved in smoking weed.
I would say that your current experience with programming is probably more a reflection on how much what you are programming actually interests you. You might be able to think of programming like painting; maybe you are painting a picket fence and find it to be the most boring thing in the world, or maybe you are painting a bunch of robots blowing each other up on a canvas. Some programming is dull and tedious, some programming is exciting and vibrant. Some people just don't like painting, and prefer pottery.
Can weed help? That seems plausible to me. Weed can make a shitty movie seem better, maybe it can help you enjoy your programming work more.
If you want to try that out, I recommend a sativa strain, not indica.
I started out as a [web and print] designer in my late teens and was stoned all the time. It seemed like a dream to me - stoned and productive. As I moved into programming in my early twenties, I found myself completely unproductive when high. Very much akin to reading a book while very stoned, where I'd find myself reading the same page for a while, and then while trying to focus, read the same sentence 20 times and realize I haven't comprehended a thing. My attention span wanders far too much. And now, about 15 years into my profession as a programmer, any more than the smallest toke will make me completely incapable of coding effectively (though I can generally think programming problems through just fine).
As a comparison, I've programmed drunk plenty of times. These days, after a couple whiskeys, I'm fairly useless - although I think that's more a case of "I'd rather relax than work" over being incapacitated.
I never tried drunk, but I doubt it would work for me.
There have been conflicting and sometimes contradictory reports on coffee's effects on cancer, cardiovascular disease, etc. Many studies suggest coffee has anticancer properties; other studies suggest it promotes certain types of cancer. Same thing with arteriosclerosis.
In terms of dependency, caffeine has been shown pretty conclusively to be habit-forming and dependence-forming. Almost anyone who's been a longtime coffee drinker and quits cold turkey will experience the side effects. But it's not clear whether coffee is doing you long-term harm, long-term good, or some combination of the two that nets out to being positive, negative, or neutral.
For my part, I've been drinking coffee every day since junior high. My stance is that it's been a net-positive in my life, regardless of what price I may pay later on. But that's one man's opinion. Not a scientific observation.
Also worth noting: coffee, marijuana, and alcoholic beverages are complex substances. There are active compounds in coffee other than caffeine. There are active compounds in alcoholic drinks other than ethanol. There are active compounds in weed other than THC. Studies that isolate the effects of any of these compounds aren't necessarily indicative of the effects of the substances themselves.
Probably not at all. Cue the "correlation isn't causality" soundbite, but coffee consumption is negatively correlated with developing Parkinson's disease, and moderate consumption of alcohol has been shown by many studies to correlate with positive cardiovascular status. Haven't researched the literature on associations of weed with positive health outcomes, but it's interesting that smoking weed doesn't correlate with developing lung cancer.
You're probably just fine so long as moderation is your mode.
I don't know how much this is positively affecting my health, or if it is at all.
The things I could do with better focus and less of a need to seek novelty....
Isn't it a need to seek novelty that makes you want to do those things?
My problem is that anything, no matter how cool, rapidly becomes boring and uninteresting to me. Whether that be a game or a programming language or a project. Probably the single greatest stumbling block to advancing my career, knowledge, and overall life.
The first other substance that I tried and did so several times was something called "Spice". It was legal in my country for the time being and you could order it online quite cheap actually.
It is a substance created to be as similar as cannabis and to be legal. However a couple of years ago they banned it in my country. The experience of the substance was pretty bad actually, but since I was so young and hadn't really done anything else I had nothing to compare it to. The first time I got really high on it was with my childhood friends. We sat on a bench in a small forest and lighted it up in a bong. I took several hits and felt nothing special at the moment.
So we started walking and soon I began to feel something, it was walking in a mist (not visually) but my head started to feel thicker and suddently we'd walked over 1km and it felt like it was in a blink of an eye. I started to panick since I had no idea what was going on and felt pretty scared. Every step I took my knees itched so bad and it wasn't very pleasant at all. It took more than 1 hour before I calmed down and I thought my heart would collapse or something. That experience sucked basically. But after that hour, I began to enjoy it a little but not that much. The drug mainly made you feel scared and it wasn't the best drug I've tried.
Second drug to do was cannabis if I recall it correctly. It was hasch and the I didn't feel much at all. It took me several tries (in seperate occations) until I finally got high. The experience from hasch was much better than spice. Imo, you can't even compare the two since the experience is so different, at least for me. I've also done marijuana several times and it is a really good drug, much better than its brown sister hasch from the times I've tried it anyway.
My weirdest experience is altough on LSA which is also legal in my country and we ordered it online, just as spice. As our understanding goes it's some kind of seed from a plant or something. So we just swallowed some with water. It is supposed to make you feel ill in the stomach in the beginning since I think it's poisionous for humans and I felt a little ill a while. But after like 1.5 hours the illness was completely gone but I didn't feel a thing.
So me and my friend walked around in our neighborhood and looked at stuff. It took a while until I realized this drug doesn't make you feel high at all. I was completely clear in my mind and I don't think I've ever been so clear-minded before or after taking that drug. It was a wonderful "feeling" and in those days I didn't program but if I would I think it would be a perfect fit. After spending some time, me and my friend seperated and I walked home. I looked upon myself in the mirror and I could not see any color in my eyes, just black and white (almost). It was a very very wierd experience since I looked so strange, but I didn't feel anything special unless more emotional and very clear-minded. I thought a lot on my life in general and what I wanted to do with it and so on. I felt happy in short, I felt that my life was really headed in a good direction and everything was basically good.
The clear-mindedness just continued through the day but as the drug wore of, so did the clearness of everything.
Unfortunately, several years after this usage my friend committed suicide and he had a lot of problems with drugs. But the problems did not originate in the drugs but rather on his family situation. He was a very intelligent guy and I miss him. He was depressed for a long time and even when we contacted the authorities for help he recieved none.
I hope you guys will get something from my experiences :) my general stand on drugs is very liberal even if a tragic event has happened in my life because I know the drugs weren't the real issue, just an escape.
[Edit to fix run-on sentence]
There's a movie on his life, isn't great but it's a decent watch, Dirty Pictures: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FA8ddx_iC_g